Dozens of Republic of China (ROC) “nationals without citizenship” from the Philippines gathered in front of the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday to protest their exclusion from the National Health Insurance program.
There are currently about 2,000 ROC nationals without citizenship living in Taiwan. Most were born in the Philippines and hold ROC passports because their parents are ethnic Chinese.
However, they are denied legal residence status because the government does not view them as “Taiwanese” and therefore they do not have national ID cards, which makes them ineligible to participate in the national health program.
Elizabeth Ong Cheng, a member of a group that provides care and support for overseas Taiwanese who have returned from the Philippines, said the group has more than 500 members who all hold ROC passports, but are excluded from the health plan because they lack national ID cards.
Many of them have lived in Taiwan for more than 10 years, but have to leave the country for at least one day every six months to renew their visas, said Lorna Kung (龔尤倩), executive director of the Scalabrini International Migration Network in Taiwan and a consultant to the Taiwan International Workers Association.
These people are not the same as dual nationals who try to take advantage of the insurance system by not paying any premiums until they return to the country for medical treatment, she said.
Many ROC nationals without citizenship have lived here for many years, she said.
“They can legally work in Taiwan and have contributed to our society, but are excluded from the national health insurance system. Our social welfare system should not allow them to be treated like this,” she said.
Chu Tong-kuang (曲同光), deputy convener of health department task force on insurance premiums, said that the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法) does not allow for loosening restrictions to include non-residents in the national health program.
However, the department would investigate the issue, Chu said.